9 x 9 = 81

by Bob Schwartz


“Yunmen (d. 949) was one of the latest and greatest masters of the classical era, known for exceptional brilliance…

“He also insisted on common sense in Zen practice: when someone asked, “What is the road beyond?” Yunmen replied, “9 x 9 = 81.” Asked about Zen in these terms, “How does one apply it on the road?” Yunmen replied, “7 x 9 = 63.” These are not silly nonsequiturs, like so much nonsense seen in cults; and they are not just numerological symbolic statements either. Nine times nine does equal eighty-one, in the daily world we face when we wake up in the morning; a variety of “Zen” that does not help you is obviously not too useful…”

Thomas Cleary
Instant Zen: Waking Up in the Present
The Teachings of Foyan (1067-1120)